Wheelchair wheel, self-adjustable glasses and robotic arm among world's design elite

Healthcare innovations praised as shortlist for Designs of the Year competition is announced

The 3D printed WREX Magic Arm is one of three medical innovations shortlisted in this years Designs of the Year competition

A folding wheelchair wheel, a robotic arm, and self-adjustable glasses for children are being heralded alongside the breathtaking Shard building in London as examples of some of the world’s most forward-thinking and iconic designs.

The Renzo Piano-designed Shard is the tallest building in western Europe and is transforming the London skyline.

And this impact on the city, and the rest of the world, has led to the development being singled out in the Design Museum’s sixth annual Designs of the Year competition.

Covering seven categories – architecture, digital, fashion, furniture, graphics, product and transport – the shortlist, which was announced this week, also includes a trio of healthcare innovations that are expected to transform treatment pathways for certain conditions.

The first is the Morph Folding Wheelchair Wheel, which was designed by Vitamins Design and Maddak Inc. Described as ‘the wheelchair reinvented’, it folds flat to fit in the storage compartments of airplanes and small cars, taking up just 12 litres of space when collapsed. It was developed in conjunction with the Royal College of Art, the Wingate Foundation and the James Dyson Foundation.

The second finalist is the 3D printed WREX Magic Arm, designed by the DuPont Hospital for Children in America. The hospital treats children with musculoskeletal disabilities and built WREX – the Wilmington Robotic Exoskelton – to give children with muscle weakness better movement and the ability to lift objects. However, the earlier prototype proved too heavy, so the designers came up with the idea of attaching the arms to a plastic vest which can be worn by youngsters.

And The Centre for Vision in the Developing World has been praised for the invention of self-adjustable glasses, which allow the wearer to tweak the lenses until they focus clearly. Based on fluid-filled lens technology similar to that used in Adspecs for use by adults, the Child Vision glasses have been developed specifically for young people aged from 12 to 18.

Commenting on its nomination, a spokesman for London-based Vitamins Design, said: “The timing for this announcement could not be better as we eagerly await the commercial launch of the product. We can’t wait to see the upcoming exhibition of shortlisted designs and are humbled to have one of our designed included among such esteemed company.”

The three products join a host of other shortlisted entries, which will be displayed in an exhibition at The Design Museum in London from 20 March to 7 July this year. The overall winners in each category will be announced in April.

Other potential winners include a non-stick ketchup bottle, a government web portal, a zombie interactive fitness app, and Prada’s spring/summer 2012 fashion collection.

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